ER24 is the premier emergency medical service (EMS) company in the country. It has grown from small beginnings – and its ongoing culture of learning and innovation continues to lead the EMS industry in SA.

ER24 was publicly launched in 2000 and looked a lot different from what it is now. Then, the company consisted of 25 independent ambulance service providers that enabled access to 113 emergency vehicles and 312 medically qualified staff.

Today, ER24 is located in 59 branches nationwide, with a fleet of over 300 emergency vehicles and more than 700 emergency personnel on standby to provide real help, real fast to anyone who needs emergency medical assistance.

What hasn’t changed: the vision that continues to grow this company from the ground up.

When the first ER24 branches were opened in August 2000, the need to employ a specific type of individual was a priority, says Andrew Boden, ER24 Founder and Related Business Executive: Mediclinic SA. “We didn’t want adrenaline junkies or Gung-Ho type of employees; we were after a particular kind of person, an empathetic, family-orientated person and someone who was looking to help us take the brand forward.

“The attraction in the early days are sirens and adrenaline, but that wears off. You need genuine compassion and care for your patients and your colleagues. This is why people stay. The will to want to make a difference in a patient’s life – someone who is exposed and vulnerable. We need to take that seriously.”

Ben Johnson, ER24 CEO, reiterates that the company is what it is because of the people.

“The paramedic on the front line, whether you are in the control room answering the emergency call, if you are working in the fleet department, or in the administrative team. Everybody has a common goal, and a common focus and that is around the patient, the client, and delivering proper services. Caring, professional, those with integrity, ethical, every day. We are patient-centric. The patient and client have to come first.”

It’s that care and compassion that drives paramedics and branch managers to expand the brand into the community. “What if that was you? What if that was one of your family members? How would you want to be treated? That spirit is what drives our teams.”

Ben also believes that taking care of the staff is beneficial to the success of ER24, and therefore creating a work environment where people want to come to work, and where they enjoy it. “It is important to schedule branch visits and meet with our staff on the ground. From a management level, you need to get out of your seat. How else would you know what is going on in the business?”

Delivering real help, real fast in a challenging and changing EMS environment requires proactive, positive and constant innovation, he says. “We’re always looking at what’s next? Why are we doing it? What should we be doing? How do we address this need? How do we sort this problem out? The way we’ve implemented our COVID-19 support services – support lines, the screening apps, utilising our Contact Centre infrastructure – is testament to that, and testament to the problem-solving attitude on which this company has grown.”

In every interaction, be it on the road or over the phone, the patient always comes first, says Andrew. “Our success over the past 20 years is directly because our teams embody that sense of compassion and determination. We are today where we always wanted to be. We can be exceptionally proud with what we’ve achieved in this timeframe.”

He concludes, “20 years ago, we didn’t set out to own massive infrastructure. We were a facilitator of service providers. It’s actually gone exactly according to plan, and today we are, where we always wanted to be. I think we can be exceptionally proud of what we have achieved in this time frame.”

‘A good partnership is essential’

Paramedics work in teams of two, as part of the operational process. But most medics will tell you that having someone who you can rely on, laugh with, or share the weight of a difficult call is the real reason. As we celebrate ER24’s 20th birthday, we share the stories of some of our staff members who have partnered with ER24 for almost two decades. Vehicles, equipment, branches and buildings, a lot has changed over the years. But the one constant is having a mutual partnership you can rely on.